After months spent discussing and dissecting last season's 5-7 disaster, Tennessee guard Jacques McClendon says the Vols are eager to launch the 2009 season by hosting Western Kentucky at 12:21 Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
"This is a new chapter," McClendon said, "and a new book."
Shakespeare couldn't have worded it any better than that.
This is a new season that features a new head coach, nine new assistants, new offensive and defensive schemes, plus a bunch of new players who didn't contribute last fall. Clearly, it's time to focus on 2009 and stop reliving 2008.
"I think everybody's done a great job of putting the past in the past," McClendon said. "Everybody's taking this as a fresh start."
The 6-3, 324-pound senior believes the new staff has kept Tennessee's focus on the future by constantly pushing the Vols to get better.
"Everybody's hit the ground running, and we're doing a great job bringing it everyday and competing," McClendon said. "When you're complacent you're not getting better. But when somebody's pushing you every day, the best is always going to come out of you."
Tennessee's new staff set a blistering pace in practice and maintained it throughout preseason camp. The practices were taxing, mentally and physically, but they served to make the Vols tougher.
"This team has really responded," McClendon said. "The coaches have challenged us. They challenge us every day, and our team has responded to that. You can't take it personally. They just want the best out of us, and we've responded to the challenges."
The Vols believe they're ready for the 2009 season because their practices were game-like in length (three hours), physicality and intensity.
"We only know one speed, and that's game speed," McClendon said. "We've got to be able to play right now. The one speed we have is fast, and that's all we're going to do ... we're going to play fast."
Although the Vols had to learn a new pro-style offense this year, the senior guard is convinced everyone is on the same page.
"You still have to know your opponent, know what you're going against, so it's still not easy," he said. "But we've done a great job of transitioning with the new coaches. It's been a real great transition."
Now that the transition is complete, the Vols are eager to turn the page on 2008 ... starting a new chapter and a new book.